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Dig Deeper: Get to Know Haiti

Map of Haiti from the John Smith Collection

Courtesy of the Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement (from the John F. Smith, III and Susan B. Smith Antique Map Collection.)

 

In the past several weeks, Haiti has become a frequent news topic, the world following the twists of political intrigue and fallout sparked by the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse in the early morning on July 7. The plot is alleged to have included a pair of retired Colombian soldiers, an intelligence officer, and a Florida-based pastor.

Many also recall Haiti from the earthquake that devastated the country in 2010 or, perhaps, the 1791 Haitian Revolution, an insurrection of self-liberated slaves against French rule.

But there is so much more to know about Haiti, including its people, its culture, and its land. Haiti is home to 9 million people and has two official languages: French and Haitian Creole. Occupying the western part of Hispaniola and sharing the island with the Dominican Republic, Haiti resides between the Atlantic Ocean to the north, and the Caribbean Sea to the south.

Work Cited:
Bartell, Jim. Haiti. Bellwether Media, Inc, 2011.


Works from and about Haiti, curated by Jutta Seibert, Director of Research Services & Scholarly Engagement at Falvey Memorial Library.

Haitians writing about Haiti

Dubois, Laurent, Kaiama L. Glover, Nadève Ménard, Millery Polyné, and Chantalle F. Verna, eds. The Haiti Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Durham: Duke University Press, 2020.

Includes excerpts from the works of Haitians from all walks of life covering political tracts, novels, poems, and songs, among others. Featured writers include Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Simon Bolivar, Henri Christophe, Victor Schoelcher, François Duvalier, René Depestre, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Edwidge Danticat, Jean Casimir, Frankétienne, and Emeric Bergeaud.

Must-Read:

Selected Fiction:

  • Kleist, Heinrich von. The Betrothal in Santo Domingo.
    Print copy available. One of the earliest literary works about the Haitian Revolution. German writer Heinrich von Kleist explores interracial love in his 1811 novella.
  • Bergeaud, Emeric. Stella: A Novel of the Haitian Revolution. New York: New York University Press, 2015.
    First English translation of Stella, a novel about the Haitian Revolution by Haitian novelist Emeric Bergeaud, first published in 1859.
  • Bontemps, Arna. Drums at Dusk. A Novel. New York: Macmillan, 1939.
    A novel by Harlem Renaissance member Arna Bontemps.
  • Frankétienne. Dezafi: A Novel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2018.
    A novel about life under the Duvalier regime written in Haitian Creole by Haitian writer Frankétienne. Now available in English translation.
  • Danticat, Edwidge, ed. Haiti Noir. New York: Akashic Books, 2011.
    A collection of stories from Haiti including works by Edwidge Danticat, Gary Victor, Evelyne Trouillot, Madison Smartt Bell, Patrick Sylvain, Kettly Mars, and Yanick Lahens.

Contemporary Accounts of the Haitian Revolution:

  • Rainsford, Marcus. An Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013.
    A new edition of the earliest English-language account of the Haitian Revolution. Originally published in 1805.
  • Geggus, David Patrick. The Haitian Revolution: A Documentary History. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2014.
    Print copy available. Features a wide range of primary sources related to the Haitian Revolution including personal recollections, letters, government documents, popular songs, travel narratives, and advertisements.
  • Toussaint Louverture. The Memoir of General Toussaint Louverture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
    Print copy available. Edited and translated by Philippe R. Girard, this book includes a transcript of the handwritten account and an English translation.
  • Beard, J. R., and Toussaint Louverture. Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001.
    Combines John Relly Beard’s biography with the first English language translation of Toussaint Louverture’s memoir.

Recent Scholarship:

 


Shawn Proctor is Communication and Marketing Program Manager, and Jutta Seibert is Director of Research Services & Scholarly Engagement at Falvey Memorial Library.

 


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Everything But the Shark Week: Considering the Lobsters

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American lobster, Homarus americanus, in front of white background

Lobsters have not always gotten respect, nor were they the gourmet delicacy we consider them today. In American Colonial times, the creature (aka the “cockroach of the sea”) washed up to the shore so plentifully (reportedly in two feet wide by two feet deep piles), that it was used as bait or fertilizer for crops, and consumed mostly as a very inexpensive source of protein.

Colonists saw how this leggy harvest provided a prodigious food source for the American Indians, and followed suit; in fact, lobster was on the menu at the first Thanksgiving. But it was so plentiful that people complained about having to eat it too often; urban legends abound that prisoners and servants would sue in order to not be fed lobster more than three times a week.

Ultimately, advances in canning, refrigeration and transportation allowed city dwellers and those in non-coastal areas to sample the creature’s delicious meat, creating a demand that resulted in people willing to pay top dollar for it.

According to the State of Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), the value of the state’s commercially harvested marine resources exceeded over $600 million dollars in 2018, making it the second highest year on record. Lobsters accounted for over 75% of this bounty, landing almost 120 million pounds.

And yet, lobstermen still call them bugs!

But enough about food. We’re here to tell you that the creatures themselves are amazing even when they are not covered in butter on a grilled split-top bun! Lobsters are one of a kind in the animal kingdom. For example, did you know….

  • The word origin of lobster:  If you think about it (but don’t think too hard, because you don’t want to lose your appetite,) lobsters do look like bugs. At least the Romans and Medieval British thought so. The word lobster comes from the Old English loppestre, which is related to the O.E. word for spider: loppe. Phonetically, this eventually merged with the Latin word the Romans used: locusta, or locust, creating the word lobster.
  • Anatomy: Lobsters are very closely related to insects. They are classified as an arthropodic, decapodic (10-legged) crustacea with a soft and flexible exoskeleton. They use some of those legs to eat, as they have chemosensory leg and feet hair that can catch and taste food. They can regenerate their legs, claws and antennae, and will even amputate themselves to escape danger. They come in an assortment of colors ( but only turn red when in hot water!) And here’s something you will never unsee–have you ever noticed the difference between a lobster’s two front claws? One is a pincer, and one is a crusher.
  • A reputation for cannibalism: A lobster’s preferred diet consists of crabs, sea stars, and sea urchins. But the rubber band that one sees on the lobster claws at pounds and restaurants is not to protect fishermen or diners, but to protect other lobsters as they, like the rest of us, love to eat lobster when hungry.
  • They are eaten best fresh: The reason why lobsters are kept in tanks in a restaurant is because they taste best fresh.  John Steinbeck, in Travels with Charley, visited Deer Isle, Maine, and advised that “eating lobster is as much about the experience as the taste itself. We sat with our feet dangling over the water, flicking the shells back from were they came.”

Lobster-link-alooza! A shellabration of info:

  • The University of Maine maintains a Lobster Institute. In its mission is to conduct and promote research and sustainability of lobster fishery in the US and Canada, it provides an exhaustive online list of all things lobster, including scholarly articles.
  • Searchable Sea Literature: your new favorite nautical news site, edited by Richard J. King.
  • Lobster economics from howstuffworks.com
  • Word etymology from foodie magazine Bon Appetit. Dig deeper on the site to find their lobster roll recipe-but any mayo is too much mayo, IMHO.
  • The Lobster Conservancy: not updated since 2010, but still loads of lobster 411.

Check out these resources, available at Falvey, or through interlibrary loan:

Inspirational in literature and pop culture:

  • Alice In Wonderland danced the Lobster Quadrille and stated, “Tis the voice of the Lobster: I heard him declare, You have baked me too brown, I must sugar my hair!”
  • Comic book hero Lobster Johnson was created by Mike Mignola. This character is part of the Hellboy universe and may be based on a real-life vigilante.
  • Wonderment and misconceptions about oceans and lobsters conjured fictitious sea monsters on medieval maps.  And Jules Verne raged, in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, “My blood curdled when I saw enormous antennae blocking my road, or some frightful claw closing with a noise in the shadow of some cavity…”

In Poetry:

Too many poets to mention were inspired by lobsters, but check out New Englander poets Troy Jollimore and Ann Sexton; Scottish Orcadian George Mackey Brown, and even Jersey’s Walt Whitman’s A Song of Joys for wonderful lobster-verse.

In Books: 

Stephen King: One might think that as the reigning king of Maine-based fiction, SK would often feature lobsters, but seems to only have featured them as lobstrosities in The Dark Tower (begins in 1982) series.

The other King, Richard J., is a better source. He is an educator, author, illustrator, and edits the online reference site Searchable Sea Literature. (Incidentally, had his first lobster at the Main Line Seafood in Ardmore!) His book Lobster (2011) is must-read for a compendium of fun lobster facts and history.

Stewart O’Nan, who has collaborated with Stephen King, wrote Last Night at the Lobster, (2007) a novel which takes place over the course of the final shift at a Red Lobster being permanently closed by corporate, and the impact of it on its local blue-collar workers and clientele.

David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster  (2005) essay visits the Maine Lobster Festival (cancelled this year because of COVID), where PETA usually makes an appearance. DFW articulates troubling questions about lobster and whether they feel pain; asking hey, don’t they behave like you or I would if thrown into a boiling pot of water?

Linda Greenlaw – who was featured in Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm, takes readers though a lobster season in The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island (2002) and these days writes a Maine-based mystery series.

Cozy Mystery series involving lobsters  – What’s a cozy you ask? Amateur sleuths solving kooky crimes while juggling a day job such as lobster-fishing. Series involving lobsters in the mix include authors Barbara Ross, Shari Randall, among others.

Elizabeth GilbertStern Men (2000) From the author of the popular Eat, Pray, Love, is her debut novel about life, love and lobster-fishing.

Duncan MacMillan –  The Most Humane Way to Kill a Lobster (2012) – This British play utilizes lobster cooking metaphors of deep freezes and slow boils to mirror a midlife crisis.

Elisabeth Towsend, Lobsters (2011) Part of an 89(!) book series on food and history.

Trevor Corson’s The Secret Life of Lobsters (2009) – for a look at lobsters when they think we aren’t looking.

Nancy Frazier’s I, Lobster: A Crustacean Odyssey (2012) explores the lobster as symbols in art, myth and science.

Christopher White‘s The Last Lobster (2018) Examines the boom and possible crash of the lobster industry. Warnings to conserve began as early as 1900, with the poet Holman F. Day’s message to lobsters: “tell the dodo that you saw us when you lived down here in Maine.”

Also, surprisingly, in our online collection is a cute children’s picture book by Martha Rustad called (not surprisingly) Lobsters (2008).

And, finally, if you’re thinking about going into the business, don’t miss Bruce PhillipsLobsters: Biology, Management, Fisheries and Aquaculture (2013) for exhaustive coverage of lobster biology, management, and conservation. This book is one of hundreds of print or online resources on the business of lobstering in our collection.


Your reward for scrolling this far:

Phoebe Buffay

Phoebe Buffay says See, He’s her lobster!

 

…and of course, Phoebe Buffay from Friends provides your #1 lobster fact: “It’s a known fact that lobsters fall in love and mate for life!”


Hungry for more?

If you’re on your way down east, don’t miss Reds’ Eats in Wicasset, Maine. But, according to the New York Times, be prepared to spend a bit this year, as lobster rolls are reportedly up to $34 each  (but still worth every bite.) #blamethepandemic.

Or, stay in town and check out the Cousins Maine Lobster truck schedule­–they bring the lobster to you…and even found time to write a book about how they do it.


Joanne Quinn

Joanne Quinn ’15 MA, ’84 CLAS is Director of Communication and Marketing at Falvey Memorial Library. She will pay $34.00 for a lobster roll if she has to. 

 


 


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Everything but the Shark Week: Learning About the Mystical Narwhal

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slide of a narwhal from Adam Matthew Digital

This week marks the 33rd anniversary of  Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. This annual summertime milestone is celebrated with documentaries, specials, articles, and social media posts, all honoring the mystery and majesty of one of the ocean’s most feared and voracious predators—the shark.

While there are many reasons humans find sharks fascinating, the ocean’s many other inhabitants should not be overlooked. In fact, countless sea creatures are  yet to be named or even discovered.

According to Marine Bio, “an estimated 50-80% of all life on earth is found under the ocean surface and the oceans contain 99% of the living space on the planet. Less than 10% of that space has been explored by humans. 85% of the area and 90% of the volume constitute the dark, cold environment we call the deep sea. … Currently, scientists have named and successfully classified around 1.5 million species. It is estimated that there are as little as 2 million to as many as 50 million more species that have not yet been found and/or have been incorrectly classified.” So, there is proof that we still have a lot more left to learn the extent to what really lives beneath those seemingly calm ocean waters.

The narwhal is just one of the many strange and beautiful sea creatures that captivates people. This greatly understudied arctic whale leaves a lot of the imagination. Many believe that narwhals are fictional creatures plucked right out of children’s stories; glittery, sparkly, and magical cartoon-like figures. However, these mystical “unicorns of the sea” are very real.

While there is still a lot left to discover, see the resources below to learn what we do know about these elusive creatures.

 

Crack the Curious Case of the Narwhal with Some Fun Facts:

  • Average lifespan is 50 years.
  • Scientific name is “Monodon monoceros,” which means “the whale with one tooth and one horn”
  • Males (and sometimes females) have a spiral tusk protruding from their head which makes them look like a cross between a whale and unicorn.
  • Narwhal tusks are enlarged teeth, which can grow up to 10 feet.
  • Tusks have 10 million nerve endings and may play a role in how males exert dominance.
  • Every year a narwhal’s spiraling tusk grows another layer, incorporating variants of carbon and nitrogen called isotopes and some of the mercury a narwhal consumes
  • Researchers have sliced open the tusks, ground parts of them into powder, and analyzed the samples’ isotope content. The results indicate where and what a narwhal might have eaten, as well as its exposure to mercury, a potent toxin whose accumulation affects animals’ immune and reproductive systems.
  • Weigh up to 3,500 pounds and grow 18 feet in length (excluding tusk)
  • Calves are approximately 175 pounds and 4 feet in length at birth
  • Swim at speeds of 3-9 miles per hour, sometimes upside down. Researchers are not sure why.
  • Change color as they age. Newborns are a blue-gray, juveniles are blue-black, and adults are a mottled gray. Old narwhals are nearly all white.
  • Spend their lives in the Arctic waters of Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Russia.
  • Communicate using whistles, moans, and clicks.
  • Spend 2/3 of their times beneath the ocean’s surface going on deep dives.
  • Cracks in the ice allow them to breathe when needed, especially after dives, which can be up to a mile and a half deep.
  • They travel in pods ranging from two to twenty-five members.
  • Predators of the narwhal are humans, walruses, killer whales, Greenland sharks, polar bears.
  • Inuit communities use narwhal as a resource. Narwhal blubber and oil was used for lighting, heating and cooking. Narwhal skin provided Vitamin C and tusks were originally used as the tips of spears or harpoons.
  • Due to the increasing negative effects of climate change and pollution caused by new shipping, development, and noise in their natural habitat, narwhals face an uncertain future.

 

a pod of narwhals in the ocean

Dr. Kristin Laidre, Polar Science Center, UW NOAA/OAR/OER, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Dive Deeper into the Narwhal’s Nest:

 The above facts were drawn from several books available in the Library’s collection.

 

Academic books/articles:

 

Video/Audio Recordings:

 

Literature:

 

Podcasts:

 

Online Exhibits/Websites:

 

Art

  • “Narwhal,” Victorian Popular Culture (Adam Matthew. Digital). Slide from the The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.
  • “Monodon Monoceros,” Dr. Kristin Laidre, Polar Science Center, UW NOAA/OAR/OER, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

 


headshot picture of regina duffy

Regina Duffy is a Communication and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library. 

 

 

 


 


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Everything But The Shark Week—Dive Deeper: Octopus

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Still of a maroon octopus from the Netflix documentary, "My Octopus Teacher.” Image courtesy of Netflix.

“My Octopus Teacher.” Image courtesy of Netflix.


This week, many individuals are celebrating the return of one of summer’s favorite pastimes…Shark Week.

At Falvey Library, we’re spotlighting a few unsung sea creatures on the blog. Should octopuses have their own week on the Discovery channel? Of course they should. I mean, they have three hearts! For additional information on octopuses (yes, that is the plural of ‘octopus’) check out the resources below.

Octopus Fast Facts:

  • Venomous.
  • Taste with their skin.
  • Can solve puzzles and use tools.
  • Change color and texture—excellent camouflage abilities.
  • Good hunters on and off land (they can leave the water for minutes at a time).
  • Octopuses can fit through any opening larger than their parrot-like beaks.
  • Can squirt deadly ink at predators.
  • Their arms (not tentacles) can even react after they’ve been completely severed.
  • Have blue blood.
  • Most species only live between one and two years.
  • Can change their body shape to mimic other animals.

Recommended Resources for Cephalopod Fans:

Check back tomorrow for some fun facts on narwhals!


Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library.

 

 


 


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Everything But The Shark Week: Jellyfish, Immortal and Astounding

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Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

 

Your feelings about jellyfish might be classified as “it’s complicated.”

If you have been stung by one, you might call jellyfish frightening and even painful. If you have watched them gliding through the water, in person or films like Finding Nemo, you might label them tranquil and meditative. If you truly know jellyfish, you’d most certainly call them what they are: amazing, astonishing, and (sometimes!) immortal.

Flop aside Shark Week lovers, grab your flippers while we “dive deeper,” and explore these cool jellyfish facts found in the pages of books in Falvey’s collection!


Did you know Jellyfish…

…have no heart, brain, bones, or eyes, and their bodies are mostly water?

…travel and migrate in groups called a smack?

…have bodies, called bells, that are shaped like open umbrellas?

…either swim by floating with the current or squeezing water through their bodies?

…can sometimes revert from the adult (medusa) stage to the polyp stage and back again, effectively becoming immortal?

… come in a variety of sizes, including the largest, the lion’s mane jellyfish, whose bell can be as large as eight feet wide and can possess tentacles up to 100 feet long?

Reading Recommendations for Jelly-fans…

The above facts were drawn from several books available in the Library’s collection:

Bonus podcasts with even more jelly-facts!

Want to read some great jelly-fiction and jelly-poetry?

Keep checking back all week on the blog, where we will be exploring many other incredible creatures of the sea!

Shawn Proctor Head shotShawn Proctor, MFA, is Communications and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library. He was stung by a jellyfish as a child and, naturally, is writing a horror novel about jellyfish now.

 


 


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Dig Deeper: Remembering Diana, Princess of Wales, on Her 60th Birthday

Photo of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Photo courtesy of Julian Parker/UK Press/Getty Images.


“I think the biggest disease the world suffers from in this day and age is the disease of people feeling unloved. I know that I can give love for a minute, for half an hour, for a day, for a month, but I can give. I am very happy to do that, I want to do that.” –Princess Diana

Today, July 1, 2021, a statue of Diana, Princess of Wales, commissioned by the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex, will be installed on what would have been her 60th birthday. One of many memorials crafted in tribute to Princess Diana, the sculpture, created by artist Ian Rank-Broadley, will be placed in the garden of the London palace. Prince William and Prince Harry hope “the permanent sculpture will help all those who visit Kensington Palace to ‘reflect on her life and her legacy.'”

In 1995, Princess Diana stated in a TV interview with Martin Bashir (BBC) that she wanted to be a queen of people’s hearts. Twenty-four years after her death, “The People’s Princess,” [an endearment first issued by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair] has left a legacy that continues to resonate with people today. One of the most influential figures of 20th century, Diana is remembered for ability to connect with all people, valuing “authenticity over protocol, and humanity over prestige.”

Diana, Princess of Wales, formerly Lady Diana Frances Spencer, was born on July 1, 1961, at Park House near Sandringham, Norfolk. She was the youngest daughter of Edward John Spencer, Viscount Althorp and Frances Spencer, Viscountess Althorp. She and her three siblings, sisters Sarah and Jane, and brother Charles, grew up at Park House on the Sandringham Estate, owned by The Royal Family. Diana’s parents separated in 1967; she briefly lived in London with her mother, until her father won custody after the marriage dissolved in 1969. Her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975, and moved the family from Park House to Althorp, the Spencer seat in Northamptonshire.

Initially home-schooled, Diana began her formal education at Silfield Private School in Gayton, Norfolk, before enrolling in preparatory school at Riddlesworth Hall in Diss, Norfolk. She then joined her sisters at West Heath Girls School, in Sevenoaks, Kent. She also attended finishing school at the Institut Alpin Videmanette in Rougemont, Switzerland, which she left after just a few months in 1978. Returning to London that same year, Diana lived with her mother and began a number of part-jobs including nannying for an American couple and working as a kindergarten assistant at the Young England school in Pimlico. When she turned 18, Diana’s mother bought her a flat where she lived with friends until she began her life as Princess of Wales.

Diana first met Prince Charles in 1977, when he began dating her sister Sarah. Though the families had known each other for many years, Diana crossed paths with Charles again at a polo match in 1980. They began their courtship soon after and officially announced their engagement on Feb. 24, 1981. They married a few months later at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on July 29. “The Royal Wedding was broadcast worldwide on television and was watched by nearly 750 million viewers.” The couple had two sons, Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, born June 21, 1982, and Prince Henry (Harry) Charles Albert David, born Sept. 15, 1984.

After her wedding, Princess Diana quickly became involved in many official duties: “Although the Princess was renowned for her style and was closely associated with the fashion world, patronising and raising the profile of younger British designers, she was best known for her charitable work. The Princess was president or patron of over 100 charities and did much to publicise work on behalf of homeless and also disabled people, children and people with HIV/AIDS.” Throughout her turbulent marriage to Prince Charles, Diana devoted her time to raising her children and supporting causes close to her heart. Even after her separation from Prince Charles in 1992, and subsequent divorce in 1996, Diana remained devoted to her charities and philanthropic efforts.

Diana’s last official engagement was on July 21, when she visited the children’s accident and emergency unit at Northwick Park Hospital in London. Princess Diana passed away on August 31, 1997, from injuries she sustained during a car accident in the Place de l’Alma underpass in central Paris. The crash also resulted in the deaths of the driver, Henri Paul, and Diana’s companion Dodi Fayed. Diana’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, survived the crash. “The Princess’s body was subsequently repatriated to the United Kingdom and her funeral was held on September 6, 1997 in Westminster Abbey. Diana is buried in sanctified ground on an island in the center of an ornamental lake at her family’s estate at Althorp.”

At Diana’s funeral, her brother Charles described the connection she shared with so many individuals:

“Diana explained to me once that it was her innermost feelings of suffering that made it possible for her to connect with her constituency…And here we come to another truth about her. For all the status, the glamour, the applause, Diana remained throughout a very insecure person at heart, almost childlike in her desire to do good for others so she could release herself from deep feelings of unworthiness…The world sensed this part of her character and cherished her for her vulnerability whilst admiring her for her honesty.”

For additional information on Diana, Princess of Wales, explore the resources below:


References:

50MINUTES.COM. (2018). Princess Diana: The tragic fate of the nation’s sweetheart. ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com.

BBC. (2020, August 28). Princess Diana statue to be installed to mark her 60th birthday. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-53947508.

Goodey, E. (2020, March 31). Diana, Princess of Wales. The Royal Family. https://www.royal.uk/diana-princess-wales.

Hallemann, C. (2018, June 6). Looking Back at Princess Diana’s Brother’s Controversial Eulogy. Town & Country. https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a10350548/princess-diana-brother-eulogy/.

Hare, B. (2020, August 31). How Diana became known as ‘the people’s princess’. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/31/world/princess-diana-death-the-windsors-series/index.html.


Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library.

 

 



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Dig Deeper: Award-Winning Children’s Author Beverly Cleary

Cleary at her home in Carmel Valley, CA. Photo By Christina Koci Hernandez/San Francisco Chronicle by Getty Images.

Disappointed with the children’s books she read growing up, Beverly Cleary was determined to tell stories kids could relate to. ”I wanted to read funny stories about the sort of children I knew,” she wrote, ”and I decided that someday when I grew up I would write them.” Never speaking down to children, she wrote through their eyes, creating ordinary and relatable tales in worlds that mirrored their own. Beloved by many generations, Cleary’s books sold more than 85 million copies according to HarperCollins.

Cleary was born Beverly Atlee Bunn on April 12, 1916, in McMinnville, Ore. She attended Chaffey Junior College in Ontario, Calif., for two years before enrolling at the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating Berkeley in 1938, she enrolled at the University of Washington’s school of librarianship. She worked as a children’s librarian in Yakima, Wash., until moving to San Francisco with her husband, Clarence Cleary, whom she met while attending Berkeley. Cleary worked as a librarian at Camp John T. Knight in Oakland, while her husband was stationed at the army base. It was there that Cleary began telling stores—classic fairy tales and her own work—which ultimately led to her first book, Henry Huggins (1950). The book, which led to five sequels, detailed the bond between third grader Henry Huggins and his skinny dog named Ribsy.

One of Cleary’s most beloved characters, Ramona Quimby, first appeared in the Henry Huggins series as the younger sister of Henry’s friend Beatrice, better known as Beezus. While the initial book on the sisters, Beezus and Ramona (1955), was told from Beezus’ point of view, the subsequent ten novels on the sisters focused on Ramona’s perspective. Cleary penned Ramona as the annoying younger sister of Beezus, but her traits encompassed that of a strong female character and children were immediately drawn to her. As Monica Hesse wrote in The Washington Post, “In 1950, when Ramona made her first appearance, [her traits] were trailblazing. Cleary took every attribute that girls were then warned away from—bossiness, brashness, hot temper—and she tucked them all into one character. And then she made that character into an inspiration.”

Cleary’s third book series featured a mouse named Ralph S. Mouse who sought adventures on his miniature motorcycle and had the ability to talk to humans (though seemingly only to children). The first novel, The Mouse and the Motorcycle (1965) led to two sequels. “I wanted to be Ralph, the mouse with the motorcycle,” David Levithan wrote in The New York Times. “Cleary was writing directly to the reader, showing that she knew us and what our lives and feelings were like. She helped me realize I didn’t need to change myself into a detective or a knight to have an adventure…the adventure would come to me as part of the life I knew.”

Cleary’s book series and standalone novels earned her numerous accolades from her readers and peers. Most notably, three of her works won The John Newbery Medal: Dear Mr. Henshaw in 1984, Ramona and Her Father in 1978 and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 in 1982. Awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, the Newbery Medal is awarded to author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

“I have stayed true to my own memories of childhood, which are not different in many ways from those of children today. Although their circumstances have changed, I don’t think children’s inner feelings have changed,” Cleary stated during a 2011 interview with The Atlantic. Passing away last month, just shy of her 105 birthday, Beverly Cleary helped to inspire a love of reading in many children. Her relatable characters will live on, especially during National “Drop Everything and Read” Day, which is celebrated on Cleary’s birthday, April 12. First referenced in Ramona Quimby, Age 8, “Drop Everything and Read” or D.E.A.R. time, is an annual celebration that encourages children and families to set aside time to read together.

I hope children will be happy with the books I’ve written, and go on to be readers all of their lives.”

View all of Cleary’s books here. For additional resources on Cleary, explore the links below:


Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library. 

 

 


References:


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Dig Deeper: Ma Rainey and Billie Holiday

Two films featuring revolutionary singers were released just a few months apart—Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Premiering on Netflix on Nov. 25, 2020, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, (named after Rainey’s song of the same name), is adopted from August Wilson’s Tony-Award winning play of the same name. The film depicts tensions amongst Rainey and her band as they come together to record a new album at a Chicago music studio in 1927.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday premiered on Hulu on Feb. 26, 2021. Based on Johann Hari’s novel Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, the film follows Holiday’s career as the Federal Department of Narcotics launches an undercover sting operation against the jazz singer.

Both films have received numerous accolades and nominations:

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom 

  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role—Viola Davis as Ma Rainey (2021 Academy Award Nominee)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role—the late Chadwick Boseman as Levee Green (2021 Academy Award Nominee)
  • Best Achievement in Costume Design—Ann Roth (2021 Academy Award Nominee)
  • Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling—Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson (2021 Academy Award Nominee) 
  • Best Achievement in Production—Production Design: Mark Ricker; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara and Diana Stoughton (2021 Academy Award Nominee) 
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture: Drama—the late Chadwick Boseman as Levee Green (2021 Golden Globe Winner, Posthumously)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture: Drama—Viola Davis as Ma Rainey (2021 Golden Globe Nominee)

The United States vs. Billie Holiday 

  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role—Andra Day as Billie Holiday (2021 Academy Award Nominee)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture: Drama—Andra Day as Billie Holiday (2021 Golden Globe Winner)
  • Best Original Song: Motion Picture—For song “Tigress & Tweed,” Raphael Saadiq: music/lyrics, Andra Day: music/lyrics (2021 Golden Globe Nominee) 

Rainey and Holiday were trailblazing singers: Rainey was famed “The Mother of the Blues” and Holiday had a major influence on jazz and swing genres. Dig deeper and explore the links below for additional information on the groundbreaking performers.

Ma Rainey Georgia Jazz Band pose for a studio group shot c 1924-25 with ‘Gabriel’, Albert Wynn, Dave Nelson, Ma Rainey, Ed Pollack and Thomas A Dorsey. (Photo by JP Jazz Archive/Redferns/Getty Images)

Ma Rainey 

Although records suggest that Rainey was born in Alabama in September 1882, Rainey stated she was born Gertrude Pridgett in Columbus, Georgia on April 26, 1886. “Known for her thunderous, moaning voice, sharp comic timing and compelling stage presence, Rainey was a pioneer of early blues music.”

Rainey began singing as a teenager, performing in a local Columbus stage show called “A Bunch of Blackberries.” She married fellow performer Will Rainey in 1904 and they began touring with the Rabbit’s Foot Company, billing themselves as “Ma and Pa Rainey.” After her marriage ended, Rainey established her own performance company, “Madame Gertrude Rainey and her Georgia Smart Sets.” Her band became one of the highest paid acts on tour.

Rainey wrote a third of her songs, and often sang about her bisexuality. “Angela Davis called Rainey’s 1928 song “Prove it on Me,” a precursor to the lesbian cultural movement of the 1970s.” In 1923 Rainey signed with Paramount Records and recorded nearly 100 records. She continued to tour, however by 1935 Paramount had gone bankrupt and her records were no longer distributed. She retired and worked as a theatre proprietor in Georgia until her death in 1939. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

 

Jazz singer Billie Holiday wears a large white flower in her hair for a performance in New York City. (© Bradley Smith/CORBIS)

Billie Holiday 

Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan Gough on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia. Singing in her teens, Holiday began auditioning with pianists at jazz clubs in New York when she and her mother moved to the city in 1929. Borrowing her professional name from actress Billie Dove and her father Clarence Halliday, she “quickly became an active participant in what was then the most vibrant jazz scene in the country–as the Harlem Renaissance transitioned into the Swing Era.”

Producer John Hammond offered Holiday her first record deal and from 1935-1941 Holiday’s career skyrocketed—often collaborating with pianist Teddy Wilson and saxophonist Lester Young, who “famously christened her Lady Day.” In 1937, she joined Kansas City’s Count Basie Orchestra, whose shows were among the top billed performances of the time.

In the 1930’s, Holiday was at Café Society in Manhattan when she was introduced to the poem “Strange Fruit.” Written by Abel Meeropol, the poem details the horrific depiction of lynching in the Southern United States and in 1939 Holiday began signing the poem at her concerts. “Strange Fruit is ‘considered by scholars to be the first protest song of the Civil Rights era. The lyric was so controversial that Holiday’s record label wouldn’t record it, so she jumped over to the independent Commodore Records where she could record and sing as she pleased.'”

Holiday received multiple warnings from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics to stop singing “Strange Fruit,” though she never did. Henry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, exploited Holiday’s ongoing struggle with addiction to silence her. Holiday was arrested and convicted of narcotics possession in 1947 and sentenced to one year and a day in prison.

Upon release, Holiday had lost her cabaret card (no longer able to play in clubs that served alcohol), and began performing in concert halls. Still widely popular, she continued to tour and perform in the 1950’s though her substance abuse had taken its toll on her voice. She gave her final performance on May 25, 1959, in New York City. She passed away on July 17, 1959. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.


Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library. 

 

 


 


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Women’s History Month: National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman

Image of Amanda Gorman provided by Kelia Anne (Sun Literary Arts) via AP.

Amanda Gorman is making history.

She became the youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration when she recited her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at President Joe Biden’s Inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. Born and raised in Los Angeles, the Harvard University graduate was named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States in 2017 by Urban Word. The youth poet laureate of Los Angeles, Gorman also became the first poet commissioned to write a poem for the Super Bowl, which she performed at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 2, 2021.

Celebrating Women’s History Month, dig deeper and explore these resources highlighting Poet Amanda Gorman.

Links:

Books:

Explore more Women’s History Month resources in this blog by Susan Turkel, Social Sciences Librarian, and this resource list by Merrill Stein, Political Science Librarian.

For help with your research, please contact the Gender and Women’s Studies Librarian Jutta Seibert.

Looking for poems by a particular author? Visit the English subject guide.


Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library. 

 

 


 


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International Women’s Day 2021

By Merrill Stein

“… distinguished for insight into human nature, remarkable for independence and courageous self-assertion, devoted to the welfare of her race …”

The quote above, a possible aspiration for women as well as world leaders today, was part of Frederick Douglass’ 1883 eulogy for Sojourner Truth (Russell, D., Black Genius and the American Experience, rev. ed. 2009, p. 419). May it also be a reminder to give thought today to the many struggles and achievements of women world guides, leaders, and innovators. Expand awareness and gain inspiration from the assortment of links below.

Poster from Womens Liberation Workshop in London - Stevenson, Prudence (Wiki Commons)

Poster from Womens Liberation Workshop in London – Stevenson, Prudence (Wiki Commons)

UN Women is pleased to invite you to the United Nations’ observance of International Women’s Day 2021. The theme is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world on the way to the Generation Equality Forum.” Here are some links to use as launching off points to learn more about women’s leadership and achievements:

Sample some motivating videos from Falvey Library’s Academic Video Online – AVON (Alexander Street Press) database. Not sure what to try, see poet Amanda Gorman as she prepares for election day or view videos relevant to Women’s History Month: Celebrating Artists Who Are Women.

Ready to dig deeper? Jump into our subject guides, which will lead you to even more curated resources!


Merrill Stein is Political Science Librarian at Falvey Memorial Library.

 

 

 


 


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Last Modified: March 8, 2021